The Vow (TV series)

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The Vow
The Vow title.png
Music byMac Quayle
Opening theme"Dream State (Brighter Night)" by Bonnie Piesse & Son Lux
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes9 (list of episodes)
Executive producers
  • Victor Buhler
  • Rosadel Varela
  • Claire Read
  • Aleks Gezentsvey
  • Sara Rodriguez
  • Christina D. King
  • Sam Price-Waldman
  • Bowie Alexander
  • Ian Moubayed
  • Omar Mullick
  • Aleks Gezentsvey
  • Christopher Passig
  • Alicia Ellis
  • Rebecca Adorno
  • Karim López
  • Nyneve Minnear
  • Erin Casper
  • David Osit
  • Arielle Sherman
  • Daniel Koehler
Running time56-58 minutes
Production companies
Original networkHBO
Original releaseAugust 23, 2020 (2020-08-23) –
present (present)
External links

The Vow is an American true crime documentary series directed by Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer that revolves around the cult NXIVM and its leader Keith Raniere. The NXIVM documentary series premiered on August 23, 2020 on HBO.[1][2]

In October 2020, the series was renewed for a second season.[3]


The Vow follows members who joined the self-improvement group NXIVM – whose leader, Keith Raniere, was convicted of sex trafficking and racketeering conspiracy, among other crimes – and reveals the emotional toll of unfolding events, as well as the role Smallville actress Allison Mack played in recruiting new members.[4] Former NXIVM members Sarah Edmondson, Mark Vicente, Bonnie Piesse, Anthony "Nippy" Ames, Barbara Bouchey, Susan Dones and Toni Natalie appear prominently in the series, alongside journalists Frank Parlato, who helped start initial reporting on the criminal activity of NXIVM, and New York Times reporter Barry Meier.[5][6][7][8] Catherine Oxenberg appears in the series as she attempts to rescue her daughter India Oxenberg.[9]

The second season of the series will focus on Raniere's trial and a continued look inside his inner circle and ongoing supporters, and stories of leadership in the United States and Mexico, as supporters and defectors face off with federal prosecutors and defense attorneys.[10] Clare Bronfman's sentencing was taped for the second season.[11] NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman, ongoing NXIVM supporter Nicki Clyne, and federal prosecutor Moira Kim Penza will appear in the season.[12][13]


No.Title [14]Directed byOriginal air date [14]U.S. viewers
1"The Science of Joy"Jehane Noujaim
Karim Amer
August 23, 2020 (2020-08-23)0.342[15]
2"Viscera"Jehane Noujaim
Karim Amer
August 30, 2020 (2020-08-30)0.338[16]
3"At Cause"Jehane Noujaim
Karim Amer
September 6, 2020 (2020-09-06)[a]0.341[18]
4"Building Character"Omar MullickSeptember 13, 2020 (2020-09-13)0.304[19]
5"Class 1 Data"Jehane Noujaim
Karim Amer
September 20, 2020 (2020-09-20)0.362[20]
6"Honesty & Disclosure"Karim Amer
Jehane Noujaim
September 27, 2020 (2020-09-27)0.318[21]
7"Blame & Responsibility"Jehane Noujaim
Karim Amer
October 4, 2020 (2020-10-04)0.257[22]
8"The Wound"Jehane Noujaim
Karim Amer
October 11, 2020 (2020-10-11)0.266[23]
9"The Fall"Jehane Noujaim
Karim Amer
October 18, 2020 (2020-10-18)0.360[24]


Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer initially did not set out to make a documentary series on the show, but after Noujaim took a NXIVM course after being recruited by Sara Bronfman, they had begun to hear about abuse within the organization and began documenting.[25] Editors on the project suggested Noujaim participate as a subject in the series, however, since she only took two weeks of classes compared to other participants in the series, she felt it would not be right.[26] Noujaim and Amer planned to split the story in two parts, with the first part focusing on those who left the cult, with the second focusing on the legal aspect.[27]

Production on the series began in 2017, initially focusing on Sarah Edmondson, Mark Vicente, Bonnie Piesse, Anthony Ames, and Catherine Oxenberg as a way to document their escape from NXIVM as they were fearful of being sued by Clare Bronfman, and wanted to protect themselves by having it taped.[28] Oxenberg filmed with Noujaim and Amer for a year-and-a-half before reuniting with her daughter, India Oxenberg, who throughout the first season, she attempts to rescue.[29] Oxenberg decided to split from the production in fear her daughter would not reunite with her with cameras around.[30] India Oxenberg decided not to participate in the series as she was not ready at the time of production to share her story to any outlet.[31] Cult expert Janja Lalich served as a consultant on the series.[32]

The series additionally features archive footage and recordings of Keith Raniere, Nancy Salzman, Lauren Salzman, Clare Bronfman, Sara Bronfman, Emiliano Salinas, Nicki Clyne, Marc Elliot, among others, which were shot by Vicente, as part of NXIVM's plan to document Raniere 24/7 for "future generations", and how "wise" he was.[33][34]

In April 2019, it was announced the series had been greenlit by HBO, with HBO Documentary Films producing.[35][36]

In September 2020, in an interview with Variety Noujaim stated "We reached out to everybody involved — many people, on all sides of the story — and we are continuing to film."[37] On October 16, 2020, HBO renewed the series for a second season.[3]


Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the series holds an approval rating of 75% based on 28 reviews, with an average rating of 7.56/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Though The Vow's scope at times exceeds its reach, its empathetic approach to unpacking NXIVM's manipulations and the consequences therein make for necessary, difficult viewing."[38] On Metacritic, the series has a weighted average score of 76 out of 100, based on 15 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[39]

In year-end best of 2020 television and documentary lists, The Vow found itself on the lists of The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly, Variety, Thrillist, Concrete Playground, and The Lineup. A number of reviews praised The Vow's intimate exploration, measured pace and extensive footage, but criticized its abstract storytelling and focus. In a positive review, Adrian Horton of The Guardian wrote that "as a portrait of manipulation and, in particular, the masking of female abuse through self-effacement, the series is darkly compelling, unnerving in a way that’s hard to shake," but conceded "[it] deceptively muddies the timeline of the group’s development."[40]Variety's Daniel D'Addario wrote that "The Vow pushes back against its slack pace to become television that compels — both for the access it has and for what it does with that access."[41] Richard Lawson writing in Vanity Fair, was critical stating: "The Vow meanders through the downward arc of a cult’s fall, but gives us little sense of its history."[42] The A.V. Club's Ashley Ray-Harris was less impressed and attributed the "wasted nine hours" and selective content to the (former NXIVM) filmmakers' desire to "get ahead of the curve with their own narrative."[43] Maureen Ryan of the New York Times, in an otherwise positive review described the series as "only scratch[ing] the surface" and "padded... repetitive."[44]

The Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, and The Los Angeles Times listed the series as one of the best of 2020.[45][46][47]


Year Award Category Nominees Result Ref.
2021 Cinema Eye Honors Outstanding Cinematography in a Broadcast Film or Series Ian Moubayed & Sam Price-Waldman Nominated [48][49]
Critics' Choice Real TV Awards Best Crime/Justice Show The Vow Nominated [50]
Best Ongoing Documentary Series The Vow Nominated [50]
Hollywood Critics Association Best Broadcast Network or Cable Docuseries, Documentary Television Movie, or Non-Fiction Series The Vow Nominated [51]


Viewership and ratings per episode of The Vow
No. Title Air date Rating
1 "The Science of Joy" August 23, 2020 0.07 0.342[15]
2 "Viscera" August 30, 2020 0.09 0.338[16]
3 "At Cause" September 6, 2020 0.06 0.341[18]
4 "Building Character" September 13, 2020 0.05 0.304[19]
5 "Class 1 Data" September 20, 2020 0.08 0.362[20]
6 "Honesty & Disclosure" September 27, 2020 0.09 0.318[21]
7 "The Dossier" October 4, 2020 0.06 0.257[22]
8 "The Wound" October 11, 2020 0.05 0.266[23]
9 "The Fall" October 18, 2020 0.07 0.360[24]

See also


  1. ^ "At Cause" was released on September 4, 2020 (2020-09-04) on HBO's website.[17]


  1. ^ Hassan, Steve (May 4, 2020). "Former NXIVM Member Sarah Edmondson Talks About Being Recruited Into and Escaping Keith Raniere's Cult". Freedom of Mind. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  2. ^ "HBO Documentary Series "The Vow," Taking an Inside Look at the NXIVM Organization, Debuts August 23 on HBO". The Futon Critic. July 30, 2020. Retrieved July 30, 2020.
  3. ^ a b White, Peter (October 16, 2020). "'The Vow': NXIVM Sex-Cult Doc Series Renewed At HBO For Season 2". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  4. ^ "'The Vow': Keith Raniere, Allison Mack and Other Key Figures". October 18, 2020. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  5. ^ K, Neetha (September 27, 2020). "'The Vow' Episode 6: Meet Barbara Bouchey, NXIVM founder Keith Raniere's ex-partner who turned whistleblower". MEAWW. Retrieved October 4, 2020.
  6. ^ Kelly, Hillary (September 20, 2020). "The Vow Episode 5: Recap: 'Class 1 Data'". Vulture. Retrieved October 4, 2020.
  7. ^ Kelly, Hillary (October 4, 2020). "The Vow Episode 7 Recap: 'The Dossier'". Vulture. Retrieved October 4, 2020.
  8. ^ Whiting, Amanda (October 18, 2020). "What To Know About Toni Zarattini From The Vow". Bustle. Retrieved October 18, 2020.
  9. ^ Ryan, Maureen (August 25, 2020). "Review: 'The Vow' Follows Nxivm Down Dark, Damaging Paths". The New York Times. Retrieved September 18, 2020.
  10. ^ Bjornson, Greta (October 16, 2020). "'The Vow' Renewed for Season 2". Decider. Retrieved October 24, 2020.
  11. ^ Parlato, Frank (October 2, 2020). "Supplemental Notes on Clare Bronfman's Sentencing Hearing, Much of Which the Media Did Not Report". Frank Report. Retrieved October 11, 2020.
  12. ^ Littleton, Cynthia (October 18, 2020). "'The Vow': What the Finale's Surprise Twist Means for Season 2". Variety. Retrieved October 18, 2020.
  13. ^ Moreau, Jordan (October 20, 2020). "'The Vow' Season 2 First Look: NXIVM Cult Leader Keith Raniere Heads to Court". Variety. Retrieved October 18, 2020.
  14. ^ a b "The Vow – Listings". The Futon Critic. Retrieved October 11, 2020.
  15. ^ a b Metcalf, Mitch (August 25, 2020). "UPDATED: SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 150 Sunday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 8.23.2020". Showbuzz Daily. Archived from the original on August 25, 2020. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  16. ^ a b Metcalf, Mitch (September 1, 2020). "UPDATED: SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 150 Sunday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 8.31.2020". Showbuzz Daily. Archived from the original on September 1, 2020. Retrieved September 1, 2020.
  17. ^ HBO Documentaries [@HBODocs] (September 4, 2020). ""This is exactly what you need to be strong." @TheVowHBO episode 3 is now streaming early on @hbomax. #TheVowHBO" (Tweet). Archived from the original on September 6, 2020. Retrieved September 6, 2020 – via Twitter.
  18. ^ a b Metcalf, Mitch (September 9, 2020). "UPDATED: SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 150 Sunday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 9.6.2020". Showbuzz Daily. Archived from the original on September 9, 2020. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  19. ^ a b Metcalf, Mitch (September 15, 2020). "UPDATED: SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 150 Sunday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 9.13.2020". Showbuzz Daily. Archived from the original on September 15, 2020. Retrieved September 15, 2020.
  20. ^ a b Metcalf, Mitch (September 22, 2020). "UPDATED: SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 150 Sunday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 9.20.2020". Showbuzz Daily. Archived from the original on September 22, 2020. Retrieved September 22, 2020.
  21. ^ a b Metcalf, Mitch (September 29, 2020). "UPDATED: SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 150 Sunday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 9.27.2020". Showbuzz Daily. Archived from the original on September 29, 2020. Retrieved September 29, 2020.
  22. ^ a b Metcalf, Mitch (October 6, 2020). "UPDATED: SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 150 Sunday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 10.4.2020". Showbuzz Daily. Archived from the original on October 6, 2020. Retrieved October 6, 2020.
  23. ^ a b Metcalf, Mitch (October 13, 2020). "UPDATED: SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 150 Sunday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 10.11.2020". Showbuzz Daily. Archived from the original on October 13, 2020. Retrieved October 13, 2020.
  24. ^ a b Metcalf, Mitch (October 20, 2020). "UPDATED: SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 150 Sunday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 10.18.2020". Showbuzz Daily. Archived from the original on October 20, 2020. Retrieved October 20, 2020.
  25. ^ Miller, Julie (August 20, 2020). "HBO's The Vow Proves NXIVM Is More Than a "Sex Cult"". Vanity Fair. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  26. ^ Wilkinson, Alissa (October 21, 2020). "How The Vow's directors went past the "sex cult" headlines to tell NXIVM's deeper story". Vox. Retrieved October 24, 2020.
  27. ^ Emmanuelle, Julia (October 20, 2020). "The Vow Filmmakers Reveal Why NXIVM Members Played So Much Volleyball". Bustle. Retrieved October 24, 2020.
  28. ^ Dickson, EJ (August 21, 2020). "How HBO's 'The Vow' Tells the Non-Sex-Cult Side of NXIVM". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  29. ^ Lambe, Stacy (October 29, 2020). "Why Catherine Oxenberg Is Overjoyed With NXIVM Leader Keith Raniere's Sentencing (Exclusive)". Entertainment Tonight. Retrieved October 29, 2020.
  30. ^ Turchiano, Danielle (October 11, 2020). "Why HBO's 'The Vow' Doesn't Capture Catherine Oxenberg's Reunion With Daughter India". Variety. Retrieved October 11, 2020.
  31. ^ "India Oxenberg on Why She Didn't Do 'The Vow' and Reclaiming Her Story in 'Seduced' (EXCLUSIVE)". Entertainment Tonight. October 14, 2020. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  32. ^ Tuchinsky, Evan (October 15, 2020). "One nation under influence". Chico News & Review. Retrieved November 8, 2020.
  33. ^ Abramaovitch, Seth (September 25, 2020). "'The Vow' Star Mark Vicente on the "Horror" of NXIVM". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 29, 2020.
  34. ^ Blake, Meredith (October 16, 2020). "For its former members, leaving the NXIVM cult left lasting scars. Literally". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 29, 2020.
  35. ^ Pederson, Erik (April 18, 2019). "HBO Sets Docuseries On NXIVM, Self-Help Group Tied To Sex-Trafficking Case". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  36. ^ "HBO Documentary Series to Look Inside the NXIVM Organization". HBO. April 18, 2019. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  37. ^ Turchiano, Danielle (September 11, 2020). "'The Vow' Filmmakers on Showing NXIVM as More Than a 'Sex Cult'". Variety. Retrieved October 11, 2020.
  38. ^ "The Vow: Season 1 (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 8, 2021.
  39. ^ "The Vow (2020)". Metacritic. Retrieved August 26, 2020.
  40. ^ Horton, Adrian (August 25, 2020). "The Vow review – unsettling Nxivm cult series burrows under your skin". The Guardian. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
  41. ^ D'Addario, Daniel (August 18, 2020). "HBO's 'The Vow' Takes Viewers Inside NXIVM: TV Review". Variety. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
  42. ^ Lawson, Richard (August 21, 2020). "HBO's NXIVM Doc The Vow Isn't Quite a Cult Classic". Vanity Fair. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
  43. ^ Ray-Harris, Ashley (October 23, 2020). "In the NXIVM docuseries showdown, Seduced is the clear winner". The A.V. Club. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
  44. ^ Ryan, Maureen (August 23, 2020). "Review: 'The Vow' Follows Nxivm Down Dark, Damaging Paths". The New York Times. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
  45. ^ Stuever, Hank (December 8, 2020). "Best TV of 2020: 'I May Destroy You,' 'Normal People,' the Democratic convention and more". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 15, 2020.
  46. ^ Baldwin, Kristen; Franich, Darren (December 2, 2020). "The best and worst TV shows of 2020". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 15, 2020.
  47. ^ Ali, Lorraine (December 7, 2020). "The 10 best TV shows of 2020". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 15, 2020.
  48. ^ Thompson, Anne (November 19, 2020). "Cinema Eye Honors Advance Documentary Awards Contenders". IndieWire. Retrieved June 2, 2021.
  49. ^ Mullen, Pat (March 10, 2021). "Collective Tops Cinema Eye Honors Winners". POV Magazine. Retrieved June 2, 2021.
  50. ^ a b Hipes, Patrick (June 21, 2021). "Critics Choice Real TV Awards Winners: 'RuPaul's Drag Race', Netflix Top List". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 21, 2021.
  51. ^ Pederson, Erik (July 8, 2021). "HCA TV Awards Nominations: 'Ted Lasso' Leads Programs For Inaugural Honors; NBC, HBO & Netflix Lead Nets". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 10, 2021.

External links

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